Nostalgia w/ David Eardley
Jul 8, 2023
Just did an interview with David Eardley of Pink Essay / Design Heads where we discussed my product design series and the role nostalgia plays in my work!
You can check out the interview here.
I kept turning over the ideas we talked about in my head and I wanted to explore it a little further here.
Nostalgia is so appealing because it connects you to a different reality - the specifics of that reality and how closely it resembles an actual past that existed only matter in as much as they help make that other reality feel more vivid.
Work that references designs from your youth opens a bridge to a reality that feels vivid because you can remember it - you lived it. Once that bridge is open you and the design can project new and different feelings onto that reality. Maybe a design takes a real aesthetic that existed but exaggerates it, builds on it, adds new elements that haven’t been seen before - but the work still feels familiar because it’s grounded in something you can vividly remember.
Used cheaply retro aesthetics can be an escape hatch - an easy way to evoke something people remember fondly. Throw some nostalgia sauce on a basic design and it will immediately resonate with and comfort many people. I don’t think comfort in that way is bad but it feels stagnent, it’s not advancing anything.
Used with nuance a designer can take successful elements from past work and apply them to modern designs in a way that creates a bridge to a new reality - that reality still feels comfortable because it’s grounded in things that are familiar, but it can also evoke new feelings and push new boundaries.
I want to design work that feels modern but evokes nostalgia because I want to feel nostalgic about the present.
I quit my job
Jan 20, 2023
I loved my job. I was challenged, worked with people I respected, learned a ton, and worked towards a cause I believe in. However the things I enjoyed about the job distracted me from how much time I let myself give to it, and how much it took away from other things I love more than I could ever love a job. So when an opportunity to exit came along, I took it.
My last day was 2 weeks ago, and it feels… amazing. I had been so heads down for so long, and I finally lifted my head and remembered the world was still here.
The job was right, until it wasn’t right. The factors that led to my decision shifted slowly over time. When I took the job I needed more experience, more money, and more stability - but over time I gained each of those things.
As those factors became less important to me, other factors became more important. In the past year as the startup picked up steam I totally fell off of all of my personal creative projects which are where I derive a lot of my fulfillment and identity from. I also neglected relationships, including my relationship to myself. I gave nearly all of my waking time and energy to the job.
I lost touch with the things that ground me in my identity and motivate me professionally. The simplest distillation of what actually gets me excited work-wise is that I just love making things. The act of breathing life into an idea is one of the purest joys I know.
I threw myself into making for others with the same vigor I did when making for myself, but it wasn’t motivated by the same reasons, and that ended up making a big difference. When making for others I always feel like I'm looking down, heads down on the task put in front of me. When I make for myself, I feel like I'm looking up and out at the world and letting it inspire me to make something. It took me a while to realize how differently doing the same kinds of work for others makes me feel.
In creative professions of course you are putting your creativity to work for others, and of course I will still need to work for other people to pay the bills. I still also hope to do fulfilling work for other people, but it can’t replace doing things for me. I put in so much for others because I took the work on as though it were my own - but it wasn't. I was putting in much more than I was getting out, and it burned me out.
For the longest time by default my time belonged to my job(s), and I negotiated time for myself. I've realized that's just not how I want to live my life anymore when I can afford not to. I used to have more time and less money, but now that I'm earning more and have less time the trade off feels increasingly less worth it. I'd rather earn enough to get by and live more of my life for myself, so that's what I'm gonna try.
I’m turning down the dial on work for others and turning up the dial on work for myself. I’ll be doing freelance dev work part time, and the remaining time I’m going to give to myself to work on things I find exciting and see if I can find a way to earn any income from them. I have a lot of projects brewing that I’m really excited to share - including work that is much more physical.
I also love writing, but to date I’ve only written for myself. I’ve been finding writing incredibly helpful for determining what I’m actually thinking. It’s often not until I see the words on the page that I realize I disagree with them. I rewrote this essay five times trying to find my own thoughts, and through that process found some deeper closure with what I am feeling. So I’m going to try out using this blog as a space to think aloud as I navigate the practice of making and think through the kinds of things I want to make.